January 21, 2010 - Merit Pay For Good Teachers, But Fire Bad Teachers, New Jersey Voters Tell Quinnipiac University Poll; Voters Oppose Expansion Of Charter Schools

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Merit pay for outstanding teachers is a good idea, New Jersey voters say 66 - 31 percent, and firing bad teachers should be easier, voters say 64 - 31 percent, in a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Voters with children in public school support merit pay 68 - 30 percent and support easier firings 66 - 30 percent, independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Union households support merit pay 60 - 38 percent and easier firings 59 - 33 percent.

Black voters oppose the idea of making it easier to fire a teacher 54 - 38 percent, while white voters support it 72 - 23 percent. Men take a stronger position on firing teachers, backing the idea 68 - 27 percent, compared to 60 - 35 percent support among women.

New Jersey voters oppose 52 - 40 percent expanding charter schools. Opposition is stronger among union households, 65 - 29 percent, and among parents of public school students, 55 - 38 percent. Voters in urban areas support charter schools 53 - 43 percent, as do black voters 52 - 43 percent, but the measure fails in all other areas of the state. Even Republicans oppose charter school expansion 51 - 39 percent.

"New Jersey's new Governor, Christopher Christie, and Education Commissioner Bret Schundler like merit pay for good teachers. So do voters, by margins topping 2-1. As a bonus, voters think it ought to be easier to fire bad teachers," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"But Gov. Christie's and Commissioner Schundler's support for charter schools doesn't resonate with voters, except for black, urban voters who are most dissatisfied with their public schools."

New Jersey voters believe 66 - 27 percent that Christie will get tough with teachers' unions. Voters say 48 - 39 percent that teacher unions are playing a negative role in improving the state's education system. Parents of public school students say 47 - 43 percent that teacher unions play a negative role. Teacher unions play a positive role, according to voters in union households, 55 - 34 percent, and black voters, 53 - 29 percent.

Public school teacher salaries in New Jersey are too high, 22 percent of voters say, while 28 percent say they're too low and 44 percent say they're about right.

"Maybe it was the campaign rhetoric. Maybe it's the Schundler appointment. Whatever, New Jerseyans expect Christie to get tough with a long-time sacred cow, the teachers union.

"The teachers' unions get bad marks. Almost half say they're a negative influence," Carroll said.

"But individual teachers don't score badly. Their pay level is either too low or just about right, three-fourths of voters say."

From January 13 - 18, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,175 New Jersey voters, with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percentage points.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and nationally as a public service and for research. For more data or RSS feed- http://www.quinnipiac.edu/polling.xml, call (203) 582-5201, or follow us on Twitter.

28. Do you think New Jersey public school teacher salaries are too high, too low or about right?
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    Wht    Blk
 
Too high             22%    33%     9%    26%    28%    16%    25%     4%
Too low              28     16     41     21     29     27     21     51
About right          44     45     42     45     38     49     48     36
DK/NA                 7      6      7      8      5      9      7      9
 
                     Union  HvKids                      Philly
                     Hshlds PubSch Urban  SbUrbn ExUrbn land   Shore
 
Too high             16%    20%    15%    22%    24%    22%    25%
Too low              35     32     41     31     17     24     22
About right          46     42     38     39     49     50     46
DK/NA                 3      5      6      8     10      4      8
 
 
29. Generally speaking, do you believe the teachers' unions are playing a positive or a negative role in improving New Jersey's educational system?
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    Wht    Blk
 
Positive             39%    22%    58%    35%    37%    42%    34%    53%
Negative             48     66     31     53     53     44     53     29
DK/NA                12     12     12     12     10     15     13     18
 
                     Union  HvKids                      Philly
                     Hshlds PubSch Urban  SbUrbn ExUrbn land   Shore
 
Positive             55%    43%    50%    43%    28%    40%    33%
Negative             34     47     36     44     59     52     52
DK/NA                11     10     14     13     13      8     15
 
Trend: Generally speaking, do you believe the teachers' unions are playing a positive or a negative role in improving New Jersey's educational system?
                     Jan 21  Oct 15
                     2010    2009
 
Positive             39      45
Negative             48      43
DK/NA                12      11
 
 
30. Some people say that public school teachers who do an outstanding job should be rewarded with additional pay - so called merit pay. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    Wht    Blk
 
Good idea            66%    63%    68%    66%    70%    62%    66%    58%
Bad idea             31     35     30     30     27     36     32     38
DK/NA                 3      2      2      4      3      2      2      4
 
                     Union  HvKids                      Philly
                     Hshlds PubSch Urban  SbUrbn ExUrbn land   Shore
 
Good idea            60%    68%    73%    63%    71%    58%    70%
Bad idea             38     30     23     36     28     35     28
DK/NA                 2      3      4      -      1      7      2
 
Trend: Some people say that public school teachers who do an outstanding job should be rewarded with additional pay so called merit pay. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?
                     Jan 21  Oct 15
                     2010    2009
 
Good idea            66      70
Bad idea             31      27
DK/NA                 3       3
 
 
31. Some people have suggested firing public school teachers should be made easier. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    Wht    Blk
 
Good idea            64%    76%    52%    67%    68%    60%    72%    38%
Bad idea             31     21     42     28     27     35     23     54
DK/NA                 5      3      7      5      4      6      5      8
 
                     Union  HvKids                      Philly
                     Hshlds PubSch Urban  SbUrbn ExUrbn land   Shore
 
Good idea            59%    66%    52%    62%    74%    64%    68%
Bad idea             33     30     44     32     21     30     28
DK/NA                 7      4      3      6      5      6      4
 
Trend: Some people have suggested firing public school teachers should be made easier. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?
                     Jan 21  Oct 15
                     2010    2009
 
Good idea            64      64
Bad idea             31      30
DK/NA                 5       6
 
 
32. As you may know, charter schools are operated by private or non-profit organizations. The schools are paid for with tax dollars. Do you think there should be an expansion of charter schools in New Jersey or not?
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    Wht    Blk
 
Yes                  40%    39%    39%    43%    42%    38%    38%    52%
No                   52     51     54     50     50     54     54     43
DK/NA                 8     10      7      7      7      8      9      5
 
                     Union  HvKids                      Philly
                     Hshlds PubSch Urban  SbUrbn ExUrbn land   Shore
 
Yes                  29%    38%    53%    37%    36%    41%    38%
No                   65     55     43     56     55     48     54
DK/NA                 6      7      4      7      9     11      7
 
TREND: As you may know, charter schools are operated by private or non-profit organizations. The schools are paid for with tax dollars. Do you think there should be an expansion of charter schools in New Jersey or not?
                     Jan 21  Nov 24
                     2010    2009
 
Yes                  40      38
No                   52      55
DK/NA                 8       7
 
 
33. Do you think Governor Christie will or will not get tough with the teachers' unions?
                     Tot    Rep    Dem    Ind    Men    Wom    Wht    Blk
 
Will                 66%    77%    60%    65%    70%    63%    68%    62%
Will not             27     19     30     27     25     28     25     32
DK/NA                 7      4     10      8      5      9      7      6
 
                     Union  HvKids                      Philly
                     Hshlds PubSch Urban  SbUrbn ExUrbn land   Shore
 
Will                 72%    62%    65%    68%    72%    58%    65%
Will not             21     27     27     25     24     31     29
DK/NA                 7     10      8      7      5     11      6